5 keys to understanding political instability in Myanmar

Last week the Asian country suffered a new coup d'etat, here we tell you 5 keys to understand the political context of the nation.

Aung San Suu Kyi.

In 2020, Myanmar held new elections, in a country with a history of repression by military junta and dictatorships of Generals. / Photo: Wikimedia-Htoo Tay Zar

LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

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Leer en español: 5 claves para entender la instabilidad política en Myanmar

Military used to power

In 2020, Myanmar held new elections, in a country with a history of repression by the military and dictatorships of Generals. This created a political system protected by a pro-military constitution and despite the fact that they were not in the Government, they have always maintained a relevant force and power in the shadows.

The recent electoral results seem to be the trigger for the last Military Coup (the 3rd in its recent history), since after the party of Aung San Suu Kyi (National League of Democracy) won again in parliament, the allied party of the Army (Union, Solidarity and Development Party) recorded one of its worst defeats and argued fraud. This led the military to overthrow the government just when the new democratic mandate was expected. This is associated with the possible loss of privileges that the military could experience from a small force in parliament.

The interim government promised that the State of Emergency in which it is now, will only last one year. But due to the recent dictatorial past and to a society tired of military coups, this can further incentivize repression by the new government.

A criticized Nobel laureate

Precisely, Aung San Suu Kyi is possibly the most relevant and world-renowned woman and character in Myanmar. Despite leading the most voted party in the country, she could not assume the presidency because according to national laws, this position is not possible for people with relatives of another nationality (their children), which is why, since 2016, she has served as minister of Foreign Affairs, Energy, Education and Office of the Presidency.

She has always been a strong activist for Burmese democracy, which earned her international recognition and awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. But she is criticized for her ineffectiveness and denial of "ethnic cleansing" which is being developed against the Rohingya.

Rohingya Genocide

Since 2012, in Myanmar, religious violence has erupted against the Muslim minority of the Rohingya, leaving 200 dead and around 150,000 refugees. In 2016, the Burmese army began intense repression against this minority, which is internationally classified as a "cleaning operation" and a war against an armed group called the Salvation Army, made up of Muslims.

According to UNHCR, in 2018 there were 866,000 internally displaced persons in the country, mainly belonging to this group. The Rohingya, historically located in the state of Rakhine are considered stateless, as the State of Myanmar refuses to recognize them as citizens, despite inhabiting this region for years.

This has caused discrimination but also ignorance of the rights of this population, for which they have had to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, a country with a Muslim majority.

Also read: Is the Democratic Party truly progressive?

Geographic location

Myanmar plays an important and vital role in the checks and balances of the region. It is a neighbor of the two mega powers in the area: China and India, in addition to hosting a population of these countries. Myanmar plays an important role as it is the border between the Indian and Indochinese world and is a strong commercial and diplomatic ally of China.

Traditionally, the West has favored the civilian government headed by Nobel Peace Prize Aung San Suu Kyi and China is on the side of the military (Xi Jinping's government has not yet protested the recent coup).

Drug trafficking

The perfect geopolitical location of Myanmar makes this small country a hub for drug trafficking between India, China and Southeast Asia.

Despite the UNO highlighting that Opium crops have experienced a constant reduction since 2015, it remains the second-largest producer in the world (after Afghanistan). This is not the only problem, according to the UN and several analysts and international media, it is estimated that the country is the first producer of methamphetamine in the world.

According to figures from the UN and the German Government's Global Drug Policy and Development Program, "the value of the illicit opium market in Myanmar is estimated to range between € 600 million and € 1.3 billion, which is equivalent to between 0.9 and 1.9% of GDP. Only 9% of income corresponds to the cultivation of poppies, while it's processing to obtain heroin and the sale of this product generate most of the billing. Up to 26% of the heroin produced is consumed currently in Myanmar ".


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